Memphis Stax Academy Students Shine On Inauguration Day 2021

It’s been a weird few weeks, y’all. Every day something strange or terrible or unexpectedly great seems to happen. And tonight…well, tonight we got the great. The Stax Academy showed out and made Memphis look amazing, like they always do.


During the January 20th 2021 US Presidential Inauguration Day Celebrate America broadcast, Stax Academy students and alumni performed a new version of the song “Better Days“. The performance was recorded at the Stax Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, both inside Studio A and outside at the famed intersection of E. McLemore Avenue and College Street.

Oh yeah, and Justin Timberlake was there too.

Timberlake performed along with Ant Clemons and a band led by Emmy nominated music director Adam Blackstone. Blackstone also provided the arrangement and live production for this performance version of the song.

Check out the entire performance of “Better Days”:

The Museum’s famous neon lights and marquee sign were on full display. The Internet™ was pleased by the Memphis reference and the heartfelt message of the upbeat song—honestly, it looked and sounded fantastic. I may or may not have screamed when the broadcast started and I realized where they were.


“Better Days” is a collaboration from Timberlake and Clemons, who invited Stax students to join them for the number, one of several performances recorded around the country and broadcast during the Celebrate America program for the Biden/Harris inauguration. Other acts included Bon Jovi, Tim McGraw, Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, and the Foo Fighters.

From Soulsville Foundation President and CEO Richard Greenwald:

“The fact that the Stax Museum and Stax Music Academy were chosen by Justin Timberlake, Ant Clemons and the Presidential Inaugural Committee to represent Memphis, Tennessee in the 2021 presidential inauguration, speaks not only volumes about the power, magic, and timelessness of soul music, but also casts a bright light on the work we have been doing here at the Soulsville Foundation for more than 20 years now.”

“We are grateful to our friend Justin Timberlake for embracing our mission and genuinely caring about the young people with whom we work every day.”

Read more about Timberlake’s contributions to the Stax Academy.

More from Stax Academy: “As an added bonus for fans, music legend and 16-time GRAMMY winner Kirk Franklin offers an inspirational message to “Better Days ft Justin Timberlake (Inauguration version w/ Kirk Franklin)” (A. Blessing/ Human Re Sources), a special version of the song currently available on all streaming platforms now. Listen to the track and watch the performance.

four Stax Academy students singing
Raphael Tenschert
Stax Academy students at a local performance.


The Stax Museum in South Memphis is my favorite museum in town. It’s built on the site of the original Stax Records and allows visitors to immerse themselves in the origins of soul music, Memphis artists, and the story of Stax.

If you’ve heard “Sittin On The Dock of the Bay”, “Soul Man”, or “I’ll Take You There”**, then you’ve heard Stax. This recording studio’s heyday in the 60s and 70s produced tons of hits and heavily influenced soul, funk, and blues music forever. At the Museum, you can literally walk through scenes from soul music’s roots in gospel, see the recreated studios, and experience all kinds of interactive exhibits. One highlight is Isaac Haye’s gold-plated, fur-lined Cadillac.

** These songs by Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and the Staples Singers, respectively.

1972 Academy Award gold statue, belonging to Isaac Hayes
Raphael Tenschert
hallway with walls covered in record sleeves at the Stax Museum
Raphael Tenschert


The Stax Museum will reopen to the public on January 23, 2o21 (they’ve been temporarily closed due to covid restrictions). Museum hours are Tuesdays – Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for children ages 9-12, and free for children 8 and under. More visitor info here.

** These songs by Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and the Staples Singers, respectively.


If you’re excited about the Stax Museum, wait until you hear about the mission of the Stax Academy! The school, located right next to the Museum in Soulsville, provides comprehensive music education to middle- and high-school aged musicians and singers. Most students benefit from reduced tuition and scholarships, and receive training that prepares them for careers in music and the music industry.

Selfishly, I’m happy that the Stax Academy is in Memphis because that means we get to enjoy the talents of these incredible students. They frequently perform at concerts and festivals (or in these times, virtually or outdoors). I have shed tears on multiple occasions listening to these kids bring joy, music, and soul to our city.

You can support the Stax Academy through donations.


Stax Museum of American Soul Music

926 E. McLemore Ave

Memphis, TN
(901) 946-2535

About the Author

I’m Holly Whitfield! I'm the editor of the I Love Memphis Blog. I love Memphis with a passion, and I'm determined to share that love with the world. 

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